The first thing you notice about Corinne Furey is the infectious smile. The Ursuline Academy senior volleyball star’s joyful disposition conveys confidence, intelligence and a joy for life.
It is a disposition that has served Furey well – through the highs of winning a state championship with her team as a sophomore and lows like missing her entire senior year season due to injury – and one she will bring to Harvard University next year.
Furey joined her Ursuline classmates and other standout high school athletes this past week in “signing ceremonies” making official their intent to play sports at colleges of their choosing.
Furey traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to visit Harvard her sophomore year, and knew then it was the school for her.
“It was our very first college visit on the recruiting tour. We saw six more schools after that, but Harvard stood out. And I really felt connected with the coaching staff — I loved their vibe, and also the players seemed like they had a great culture, and obviously the school is awesome.”
Immediately following the visit, instead of sending an email, Furey picked up the phone and called to thank the Harvard coach for her time and how much she felt the program was a great fit. The Ivy League school obviously agreed, offering her a spot during that conversation.
“It was surreal. I was ecstatic. Because in all honesty, while our state has some excellent teams and players, Delaware’s not necessarily seen as a volleyball hotspot. Three out of four of the Harvard volleyball commits for my year are from California. The volleyball hotbeds are typically California, Texas, Florida and the Midwest.
“So I was really putting myself out there and trying my best to get as much attention as I could, because they might see Delaware outside hitter, and they might just click ‘Delete.’
Ursuline coach Sue Heiss says she isn’t surprised Harvard wanted the versatile 6’1” volleyballer, both due to her talent as well as her attitude.
“Sometimes players are just satisfied to be on the team and playing at a certain level. But she kept on pushing herself further and further and wanting to be better and understand the team strategy,” said Heiss. “And she brings along the entire team with her because she’s just such a positive person on the court and positive person as a friend and teammate,” she said.
Furey suffered a serious knee injury this past July in a national tournament in Indianapolis, tearing her ACL and meniscus.
Coincidentally, the Harvard coaching staff happened to be watching that game – among the dozens underway in the vast Hoosierdome – and witnessed her injury in real-time. But they never wavered in their resolution to bring Furey to Cambridge.
“The Harvard coach was terrific, and she said I could sit here and cry for you, but what will that accomplish?” recalled Furey. “Instead she said, ‘How can we go forward from here?’ … you’re still going to have a spot here and a great career here at Harvard.”
Although the injury derailed her senior season, the scholar-athlete (she has a 4.0+ GPA) was determined not to let it prevent her from being the most supportive and vocal teammate during this fall’s campaign.
Heiss said both the quality of Furey’s character and her love and knowledge of the sport really showed through the response she brought to her injury.
“Because she couldn’t play we had her on the bench, next to me, providing feedback about what she saw on the court, and she was like another coach,” remarked Heiss. The Ursuline coach also said Furey has developed a rare capacity for playing different positions on the court.
“In college, they want you to be able to do it all. Often a tall person isn’t agile enough in the backcourt, and she was, which is unusual. She can pass the ball, too,” said Heiss. “Those are traits that usually don’t see in someone who is six foot one inches tall.”
“She has total control of her body and she can put the ball wherever she wants to,” continued Heiss. “And then you see that she can play it backcourt, and you realize she’s got the whole package.”
Elite volleyball players will spend hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours each year playing at an intense level with club volleyball. In Furey’s first two years on Varsity, she traveled with the Brandywine Volleyball Club and developed under instrumental coach, mentor and supporter Chris Smith.
By her sophomore year, coaches at the national level saught her out, and that’s when Furey made the move to East Coast Power Volleyball in King of Prussia. “They really did wonders for her game,” said Ursuline’s Coach Heiss.
Furey admires all of her coaches, including East Coast Power coach Jeff Wismer, who has now moved on to North Carolina. “He’s coached at the collegiate level and he’s all over the volleyball world,” said Furey. “He really made a huge impact on my growth as a player, helping me grow physically and mentally. And he’s kept me motivated during rehab,” she said.
Corinne will be the third of three Furey siblings to play college sports as recruited athletes. Her brother Brannock played football at Johns Hopkins (’15) and brother Conor also played football at Yale (’18).
Furey’s dad, Dr. Anthony Furey, played Varsity basketball for four years at Lafayette College and was the captain of the 1982-83 team. While not a college athlete, mom Kathy Furey has run five marathons as an adult.
Both Furey brothers attended Archmere Academy, and Furey nearly followed them after attending elementary and middle school at Ursuline.
“I thought I was going to Archmere – my brothers both went there. But then I talked to Mrs. Heiss about playing as an eighth-grader, and then I joined the varsity team. I started for the entire year, which was definitely an adjustment. I was crying after every practice at home. I loved it, but I was just so emotionally invested and also scared with all these seniors who were running all the practices.”
“I loved Ursuline, loved the team, loved the culture with Mrs. Heiss as the coach and they had great assistant coaches and seniors who were awesome leaders, and I could really see myself there. So I decided to stay.”
That 8th-grade season Ursuline went to the quarterfinals of the state tournament, followed by a heartbreaking loss to Delaware Military Academy in a five-set final match her freshman year.
Ursuline took the state title Furey’s sophomore year, defeating Padua in the finals. Last year Ursuline was downed by Archmere in the semifinals.
Furey says she is leaning toward studying the humanities at Harvard but might end up picking up business or economics as an area of concentration. One goal she’s certain about – she hopes to help her team win the Ivy League Championships.
“I think I’m going to take this year when I have a little less emphasis on traveling to different states and different cities for volleyball every weekend, and maybe invest a little more time trying to find out where I want to spend my focus for the next four years.”